Friday, August 31, 2007


Indoor Plumbing!rose and i left out of napa and rolled on down the road toward yosemite national park. yosemite, of course, was not part of The Plan (TM, Pat Pend) so we didn't have any hotels (let alone any towns) scouted out as landing zones. we drifted into Jamestown, CA courtesy of a AAA road map and a gracious good wind. we pulled up to the first hotel in town, a cute old B&B on main street with a wooden sign hanging from the balcony. it was locked. there was a guy standing outside jiggling the front door handle. he'd forgotten his key and was locked out. we figured if a registered guest couldn't get in there, we sure couldn't. so we rolled on down the street to the next place. it, likewise, was a cute old B&B. they had exactly one room open, so we took it. what a good decision that turned out to be! the National Hotel was precious, right down to the teddy bears waiting to snuggle with us in our twin beds. the water-closet style bathroom, shown here, was actually pretty recently updated. they also had the text from an original sign posted in the guest rooms, just after it was built at the end of the gold rush as a hotel for miners.
Newfangled Contraptionsthe hotel was built in 1849, and has been in continuous operation since then. the bar and barroom are made of hand-carved redwood. it was both simple and gorgeous, and i regret that i didn't get a photo of the glass chain decorating the mirror behind the bar. i've never seen anything like it. the hotel has apparently been through 2 devastating fires, but the bar has been saved every time! i guess the miners knew a good thing when they saw it. we had the most amazing 4-star dinner of our entire vacation in the cafe out back, shaded by a canopy of grapevines that have obviously been trained patiently over the long years. some of the parent vines were as big around as my calf. (!!!)

Outside YosemiteWhite Face
the next morning, we actually rolled into yosemite. it was just as pretty as everyone said. i now understand why ansel adams spent so much time taking photos in the park. the contrasts there are sharp enough to cut yourself on... mosses so green they're almost black, rocks so white you have to look twice to figure out if they're snow or rocks, beautiful groves of ancient trees, shattered fields where fires raged, impatient minivan drivers, dawdling rv drivers. around every single bend in the road there was something we wanted to stop and photograph. if we had taken all the pictures we wanted, we'd still be there.alas and alack, we had to hit the road. we couldn't stop indefinitely in yosemite to take pictures. in fact, we didn't even stop for lunch! we ate at a little gas station/cafe/souvenir shop on the far side of the park on the edge of Mono Lake. from there, we headed off into the wilds of nevada on US Hwy 6. we were still off the route that was part of The Plan (TM, Pat Pend) but if we made decent time across nevada, we would be on track when 6 intersected 50 in Ely. So we bid California a fond adieu, and rolled east for Nevada. in closing, this is just about the only picture i took that came out nicely. all the above shots? yup, you guessed it. my girlfriend's work.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Oh, What a Night!

Actually, it was the sunset, not the night, that was spectacular. In that I mean it was literally a spectacle. I am in Cazenovia, NY this week, which is a very small town about a half hour from Syracuse, NY.

One of the things I truly adore about my current gig is that I travel on my own. I have a reasonable degree of control over where and when I eat dinner, which hotel I stay at, who drives the rental car, etc. And this means that if I'm willing to hop in the car and schlep my happy hind end an hour and some change up to Lake Ontario for dinner, I can do so. So I did.

Dinner was nothing outstanding, just a fried fish sandwich, albeit a good one. I found this place called Rudy's just off the campus of SUNY Oswego and I ordered my fried zucchini sticks and fish sandwich and sat out on the picnic tables out back, weighing down my napkins with my beer, watching the sun set into Lake Ontario.

When you're from the gulf coast, moonrise over the water is a fact of your life. Sunrise on the beach is a beautiful thing, and is generally the nicest time of day. But you never get to see the sun drop into the water when you live on the gulf coast. It doesn't work that way. In fact, the fact that the sun rises over the water can be so deeply ingrained in one who was raised on the Gulf Coast that she could roust her sister out of bed at a ridiculously dark hour to drive to Santa Monica beach only to watch the sun rise over the condos across the street. Not that that's ever happened to me, but it could. ;)

All of which is to say that on the rare occasion that I am able to catch a gorgeous sunset over the water, I very much strive to catch and enjoy it. The waves crashed, the seagulls begged, the sun set, I drank my beer, and I enjoyed it deep beneath the level of my skin and my mind and all the way into my feeling soul. 3 hours in the car is rarely spent on a more worthwhile pursuit.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Napa Valley and the North Coast

GEEK! After San Francisco Pride, Rose and I rode up through the city to the Golden Gate Bridge. She'd never been, and I'd never gotten to take pictures. We had to get up to the north side of the bay anyway, so rather than taking roads we'd already been on, we opted for a new route. It was a long drive in nasty traffic, but I love that bridge, and I got to take geeky pictures with the cross-section of the cable. What's not to love? I have to give my girlfriend all the praise and credit when it comes to the photos. She took my (borrowed, fancy) camera and her (simple, old) camera and her tripod and made great and gorgeous shots. I made some pretty crappy snaps that manage to make the golden gate look like a tinkertoy. So, if I haven't mentioned it yet, all the (good) photos I've posted are her work. I'm the author, she's the illustrator. It's a great partnership! And here's one, courtesy the tripod:

Beautiful Golden Gate
So after pulling out of our space in the crowded Golden Gate overlook, we waved at the German tour group on their rented BMW motorcycles who were pulling into our parking space, and turned our noses northward for Napa. A long-time friend of mine found herself living out there recently and decided to finallyGo for Launch! tackle some of the things she had on her list of "stuff to do before i'm 40". She had to change the title to "stuff to do before i'm 50" but she's working her way through it. One of her things was to learn to fly a plane. All well and good, but plane rental is expensive. She got tired of renting and decided to buy, because that's the sort of woman she is; as she somehow managed to avoid living beyond her means when she was young, she can afford it. I, personally, am spending half my disposable income paying for my dissolute and misspent youth. So she sent us out to the airport and arranged us some time with her flight instructor and her plane and off we went to see the sights of the Northern California Coast. Truly, it is a beautiful place.

Point Reyes Lighthouse
We flew over the San Andreas fault, the Point Reyes National Seashore, an elk herd, a hidden little surf beach, the Monterey County Open land trust, the only oyster supplier in the bay area, and the flats where they make sea salt. Tremendous! Scenic Napa And as a super-bonus for you, dear reader, I have an out-of-chronology bonus winery shot that we took a few days earlier when we were driving through the valley. The road ahead was supposed to lead us to Lake Tahoe and thence across Nevada on US Highway 50 (according to The Plan) but as you may recall, Lake Tahoe was on fire this summer. Okay, the lake itself wasn't ON FIRE, as such. But the forests surrounding it were on fire, and said Highway 50 was closed. So we had to change The Plan. My aforementioned long-time friend is a California native, and she made the wonderful suggestion that we drive through Yosemite National Park and wind our way across Nevada on Route 6, which would put us back on 50 close to the Utah border. It was a perfect Plan B! So we said goodbye to San Francisco Bay and headed off for Yosemite.
Good Bye, Embarcadero

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

San Francisco Pride

I rode my motorcycle to San Francisco and all I got was this T-shirt.

which, actually, i love. the shirt is the negative of that jpg image, which is fine in a place like san francisco where the summer temperatures are around 75 F. in dallas, we make white t-shirts for pride because (even though we have pride in the early fall) it's still blazing freaking hot and nobody wants to wear a black t-shirt when it's 100 out. seriously, rain is an improvement on the weather at dallas pride, because it keeps the temperatures tolerably low.

After tooling around Napa Valley all day Saturday, attending the Dykes on Bikes Pride Party, and eating lovely seafood at Fisherman's Pier on Saturday evening, we queued up for the parade bright and squirrelly Sunday morning. The DoB (aka: San Francisco Women's Motorcycle Contingent) were very excited because they finally were near the end of their struggle with the US Trademark office to protect the name of the organization and make their unofficial name into the official name. The parade draws 400 or so bikes every year, and about a million spectators, and that requires a pretty high level of organization. ORGANIZED We had to stage up between 7 and 8 to start the parade at 10. I am NOT, repeat NOT a "morning person". My day usually only has one 5 in it. Verily, it has also only one 6 in it. On this day, I was ON. MY. BIKE. at 6 AM. And in case you'd forgotten, San Francisco is COLD in the summer. It's especially cold in the dawn's early light.

Proudly Sleeping

But I lined up, I got my coffee, and then I lay down for a nap. And, no, I didn't spill any of that coffee. Apparently, the nap created something of a stir. I, naturally, was dead asleep and didn't know that I'd created a stir until the sun started peeking over the tall buildings of Market St. and woke me up. Taking Pictures of the Picture Takers But my girlfriend and her friends thought it was so funny that people kept stopping to take my picture that they took pictures of the people taking pictures. I picked up a passenger for the parade, and we had a great time riding down the route and waving at all the people. One of my favorite features of the parade is that the Dykes on Bikes go first. If you've ever driven a stick-shift in gridlocked traffic, you know how not-fun it is to do stop-and-go in first gear. it's really awful on a bike because your clutch is operated by your left hand, and you eventually get a cramp in it, no matter how many times you've squeezed those grip exercisers that were ubiquitous in the 80's. where did they go? anyway, with the bikes at the front, they get to set the pace and they don't have to stop every time a marching band out front decides to hold up the parade so they can grandstand for the ... um ... grandstand.

After the parade, we went to the Pride festival. It wasn't drastically different from any other Pride festival i've ever attended except that it was very big and I'd heard of the bands that were playing. Oh, and it was cool out. People were in the most AMAZING costumes, elaborate things made of feathers and glitter and paint that would've totally melted in the Texas heat but which were made possible by all the cold water out in San Francisco bay. And city hall was flying a pride flag out front. That was pretty damn amazing. Not only was I proud, but the whole city was proud with me. I'm not sure I can explain how that feels, but it's kinda like how it felt when I was in survival school in the Air Force and at the very end of the week we spent as POW's in an "internment" camp, our formation was ordered to about-face. we expected to see the People's Republic of Berzerkistan (thanks to Gary Trudeau of Doonesbury for that very awesome fictional country name) flag that had been flying overhead all week and which we'd been forced to salute and pledge allegiance to. But the US flag was flying there instead. We all cried a little. It's like coming home, but it's more... it's a like a homecoming you desperately need don't dare hope for because you knew it can't happen... and then it does.

Pride City

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

it's not so much that i'm addicted...

...when compared to the population of folk who play, it's that i'm so very addicted when compared to my demographic. :) i'm only 63% on the general score, but compared to other women my age, i'm at 99%. i gotta start recruiting some friends!

Your Score: Well on your way!

You are 63% Addicted!

You play a lot, and you're starting to get hooked. Keep it up and soon you too will be part of the ever-growing group that is totally addicted. Or, see the warning signs now and get out while you still can!

Link: The World of Warcraft Addiction Test written by survivedestiny on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Monday, August 13, 2007


do you remember that scene from "The Lion King" in which Rafiki (the crazed old babboon advisor) gives Simba some ridiculously cryptic advice and then skitters off across the plain, chanting nonsense about squashed bananas to himself? Simba looks dumbfounded and a bit sour-faced afterwards.


well, i re-enacted it. sort of. mostly, i made a squashed banana and a sour face.

in my defense, let me open by saying that i have no recollection whatsoever of putting a banana into my briefcase. i've been on the road a lot lately, and i've also had my sister's ex-service dog living with me. either of those could be the ultimate reasons for the stray fruit. it's possible that someone handed me a banana, either my girlfriend as i was dashing off to the airport, or one of those nice people who keeps the continental breakfast stocked up and clean at my hotel. it could've even been one of my students. any of those people also could've simply put the banana on top of my bag and then the unattended banana could've fallen into the bottom of the bag.

my sister's ex-service dog (who has been visiting my house since hers was invaded by a screaming baby) likes to pick things up and bring them to people. part of her training, you know, to be useful and bring you your dropped cell phone or keys or wallet or whatever. she's very good at it, and your articles arrive at your feet drool-free and with no extraneous tooth-marks. this is much more than i can say for my own black lab, who only brings me things when she wants them thrown back out so they can be retrieved. molly mauls everything she gets her slobbering jowls around. and lest you think you could outsmart her by using something clearly bigger than her head, like a basketball, let me assure you that she's popped her share of basketballs. poof. not bigger than her head anymore, and much more satisfying as a chew toy that way.

so somehow a banana ended up in the bottom of my bag. and apparently, it stayed in reasonably healthy and unharmed state for some time there while i had a travel respite. i was home for almost three whole weeks attending distance learning classes and filing expense reports and other hateful forms of paper-based torture. so back out on the road i went... and i noticed an odd smell when i was on the shuttle from my parking lot to the terminal. it was kinda like kettle corn, sweet and salty. when it got stronger, it was more sour. i thought it was an odd smell for a shuttle bus to have. then i got to the admiral's club to have a drink and dinner and wait for my (delayed) flight to board. and i smelled that smell again, but stronger, it seemed. i thought i must've gotten something on my shoes or my hands or something. so i washed up and checked my clothes for odd spills. finding nonesuch, i thought that was the end of it. then, when i was sitting on the plane i went to put my computer back into my bag and i smelled that odd smell again, but strongly. it was now unmistakably coming from my bag. it was sweet-ish, but also kinda sour, like vinegar.

and then i did something extraordinarily stupid and one which i caution you never to try. i put my hand down in my bag to find out what was making it smell like that. my fingers squished into the banana... or what was left of it. i pulled it out of my bag, which was also stupid, but i couldn't very well leave it in there, could i? i made a dumbfounded face, a brief visual inspection ensued, and i quickly identified it as fermented squashed banana. the lady next to me made a sour face and nearly blew sprite out her nose. she seemed to be laughing, but i'm going to go with "laughing at" rather than "laughing with" here. i quickly found an airsick bag and disposed of the former fruit.

on landing, i got to my hotel and removed the rest of the squashed banana from my bag. alas, there was no way to clean the bag with the materials and facilities available to me in the hotel. which is really alright, because after a year's use, the bag was starting to wear out. so i chucked it. i went to work the next day with my (recently washed) gear shoved into the plastic laundry bag that hotels always have hanging in the closet. that afternoon, i stopped by my friendly neighborhood office supply store and bought myself a new bag. i like it better than the old one, too. it's comfier in the shoulder straps, and it spreads the bulk out so it's easier to fit underneath the seat in front of me.